Hi, my name is Jacqueline Mendoza and I am the 2017 Grand Prize winner of Teens Dream.  I am a 13-year old girl from southern California in the USA. There are many unexpected things that may happen in my lifetime and winning the grand prize with Teens Dream Global video competition was definitely one of them! My entry was initially a school assignment given by my school teacher, Kari Milton, that turned into something much more. My winning dream video was on raising global awareness of the life below water, specifically pollution, focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Under Water.

With the help of the Teens Dream CoLab Network, I was matched with a mentor that helped me turn my general vision, into a much more specific goal, i.e. plastic. It was thanks to my mentor, Bruce Moravchik of the US government National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to expand my research knowledge into a more practical and real life application. Prior to our face-to-face meeting, I was given the opportunity to FaceTime with Mr. Moravchik a few days before the actual gathering. Getting to know about Mr. Moravchik and what he does, helped break the ice. During my virtual communication with him, I was able to obtain a better understanding of his background as well as share my background, goal, and future plans. I was able to get insight of what would happen during our talk and who would be joining the conversation, allowing me to prepare questions for the other specialists joining us that morning. I was initially nervous meeting everyone but with Mr. Moravchik’s help, the atmosphere was friendly and inviting which made my nervousness go away.

Mr. Moravchik introduced me to his many colleagues, each taking turn in giving me an insight into their field of specialty and how it tied to my vision. Each adult in the room put forth their utmost attention when I asked questions, wanting to give the best answer to help me. It was such a laid back meeting that I almost forgot it was a meeting at all. The time I had with my mentor and his colleagues flew by. I left NOAA with opportunities to take advantage of, such as, future contacts in California (should I want to pursue my plan in the future), advice I can build off of, and a parting gift which was really unexpected, but truly appreciated. Although, Mr. Moravchik was unable to physically attend the Teens Dream Celebration on Oct. 6th, I felt his support and I hope that I am able to convey my sincerest thank you and appreciation for him and his colleagues at NOAA.

Overall, this experience of being a part of Teens Dream was exceedingly impactful for me as a person. Being offered so many opportunities and meeting people just like me, wanting to get their voices heard, opened my eyes to see the bigger picture. I am not alone in this struggle. There are others who are fighting to solve the problems the world is facing today and are stepping up to the challenge. Although, my dream is far from simple, the steps to reach it can start with a simple act. For example, using one less plastic Ziploc at home means one less plastic item that could enter the ocean. To solve something, one must simply start. Problems won’t be solved if we all stand by and watch.

This experience with Teens Dream has led to a change of lifestyle for me and those around me. Teens Dream has allowed me to open my eyes and see what others may not see. Without meeting the Teens Dream CoLab Network, I would not have had the courage or the voice to share my dream.